If you’re going to spend the time and money to plan a vacation, you want to be amazed by what you find when you finally arrive! Whether you’re loading up the minivan for a family road trip, or jumping on a plane with your favorite person, both the journey and the destination should be a perfect balance of relaxing and engaging.
Unless you’re headed to a specific destination–like an all inclusive resort or a nationally renowned theme park–there is ample space to explore in any state you choose to visit throughout the United States. Most of our favorite underrated locales are not on the beaten path, and they’re all delightfully picturesque!
Montana: Garden of One Thousand Buddhas
The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is located in Arlee, which is part of the Flathead Indian Reservation. The garden quite literally houses 1,000 Buddhas, all surrounded by a variety of beautiful flowers and plants, including 1,000 trees. It’s a must-see for people who appreciate history and spaces of worship.
Utah: Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Utah is filled with beautiful state parks, and some, like the Coral Pink Sand Dunes park, are entirely underrated. Just like its name, the Coral Pink Sand Dunes park is known for its pink-toned sands, which come from Navajo Sandstone. Travelers who enjoy hiking, camping, and off-road driving should visit this park at least once in their lives.
Kentucky: Appalachian Mountains
The Kentucky Appalachians are a beautiful part of the state that can’t be missed. Driving through them is a must for anyone who appreciates nature, and some people even plan entire trips around the region. Whether you want to camp, kayak, or just take a scenic drive, make sure to include the Appalachians in your next trip to Kentucky.
Washington: Quinault Rainforest
The Quinault Rainforest is located within the Olympic Mountain range, a huge travel destination for nature-lovers. Filled with some of the largest, greenest trees in the world, the Quinault Rainforest is also located near the Quinault River and Lake Quinault.
New Jersey: Princeton University Art Museum
Princeton University, one of the most prestigious colleges in the United States, houses their very own art museum, which is a must-see for art appreciators. The museum holds over 92,000 pieces of art, encompassing arts of all kinds, like sculptures, paintings, and artifacts. The best part? Admission is free to the public.
Louisiana: Oak Alley Plantation
The Oak Alley Plantation is one of many plantations in Louisiana, and it dates all the way back to 1837. There is a charge to tour the plantation, which now houses the Slavery at Oak Alley exhibit, a Civil War exhibit, and a theatre. The plantation sits on nearly 25 acres of land with trees that date back hundreds of years. History buffs: this stop is for you.
Indiana: Michigan City
Just south of Lake Michigan, Michigan City in Indiana is a spot filled with tourist attractions and nature views alike. Perhaps most worth seeing is the lighthouse, which was built in 1858. The city also has a large parks, as well as a zoo and the Barker Mansion. If you stop through Michigan City, you’re guaranteed to keep yourself busy, as there’s plenty to see and do!
Virginia: Potomac River, Alexandria
With a population of about 160,000, Alexandria is a beautiful city located right on the Potomac River. It’s filled with things to do, too. You can take a water taxi in the Potomac River to get the best views of the city, or plan an afternoon dining and shopping along King Street, which is one of the city’s best areas to stop in.
New Hampshire: Diana’s Baths
Diana’s Baths are a group of short waterfalls that flow through Bartlett. The Baths are a great spot for those who enjoy hikes, as they’re located in the White Mountain National Forest.
South Dakota: Sylvan Lake in the Black Hills
Whether you want to swim, boat, or hike, Sylvan Lake is a great spot to visit in South Dakota. It’s a part of Custer State Park, which is located in the Black Hills. Plus, it’s only about five miles away from Mount Rushmore, which many people plan entire trips to visit. So, grab your camping and hiking gear, and add Sylvan Lake to your list of must-sees in South Dakota!
Maryland: Battle Creek Cypress Swamp
Battle Creek Cypress Swamp may not be the first place you’d think to visit in Maryland, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in beauty. Filled with wildlife, trails, and beautiful trees, the swamp is a place to visit if you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Even more, the National Park Service has named the swamp a National Natural Landmark, making it stand out among nearby parks and nature reserves.
North Dakota: Scandinavian Heritage Association
Located in Minot, North Dakota, the Scandinavian Heritage Association is a park that holds memorabilia and artifacts from every single Scandinavian country, which includes Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland. It’s a must-see for anyone with Scandinavian roots or an interest in visiting the European region. Some artifacts include a Danish windmill, a replica of the Gol Stave Church in Norway, and a Finnish sauna.
Most famous for fishing, Sitka is located near Alaska’s capital, Juneau. It’s a port city filled with parks, hiking areas, and boats. If you’re planning a trip to Alaska, make sure to include Sitka on your list of spots to visit.
Illinois: Garden of the Gods
The Garden of the Gods is a wilderness area located in the Shawnee National Forest. It spans 3,318 acres of land and is most notable for its smooth rock formations. Take a hike, tour caves, and plan a lunch for your next trip through the beautiful Garden of the Gods!
Georgia: Cumberland Island
Cumberland Island is located in Camden County, Georgia, and it’s known for its wild horses grazing the grounds. This island is also home to mansion ruins from Andrew Carnegie’s properties. It’s a must for people who enjoy spotting wildlife, as plenty of turtles also roam the island.
Oklahoma: Catoosa Blue Whale
Right off Route 66 in Oklahoma, the Blue Whale of Catoosa sits for visitors to visit. It’s an attraction you can’t miss, and it’s been around since the 1970s. Plus, the Blue Whale of Catoosa has been a hot spot for all kinds of pop culture favorites, including American Pickers and An Idiot Abroad. It’s a must-see if you’re driving through this state.
Massachusetts: Bancroft Tower Castle
Named after its builder, General William Bancroft, the Bancroft Castle was built in 1906 in Groton, Massachusetts. Its remains stand for visitors to admire, just along a trail. It’s a great spot to visit if you appreciate history and castles.
Arizona: Little Painted Desert County Park
Looking for a stunning landscape? Visit the Little Painted Desert. It’s a county park off the beaten path in Winslow, Arizona, and just like its namesake suggests, the grounds look like they are painted in beautiful hues of orange, red, and brown. The Little Painted Desert is a guaranteed slice of heaven, particularly for anyone who loves the great outdoors.
Tennessee: Fall Creek Falls
At 256 feet tall, the Fall Creek Falls waterfall is truly a force of nature. It’s located in the Fall Creek Falls State Park in Spencer, Tennessee and is considered the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi River. What’s great is there are plenty of hiking trails leading up to and around the waterfall, which makes it an ideal place for an escape in nature.
Maine: Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse
Constructed in 1888, the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse sits in the Penobscot Bay. To get right in front of the lighthouse, you have to take about a mile-long walk. Though it’s not a hugely popular tourist destination in Maine, it’s beautiful one and should not be missed.
West Virginia: High Street, Harpers Ferry
Bustling High Street is part of the Harpers Ferry Historic District in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Aside from gorgeous nature views, the area is filled with old-style homes, small food spots, and a historic train station that connects to Washington, D.C. Visit High Street if you’re into the old-town feel; you won’t be disappointed.
Kansas: Maxwell Wildlife Refuge
Live in the Midwest and want to visit a wildlife refuge? You should check out Kansas’ Maxwell wildlife site, which is home to many wildlife, including bison. It costs a small fee to take a tour across the refuge, but it’s still a great place to stop if you’re traveling through Kansas.
California: Point Arena Stornetta Public Lands
The Public Lands are nothing short of breathtaking. Not only do you get a jaw-dropping view of the Pacific Ocean, but you can also trek along the rugged rock formations along the shore. Don’t miss this spot if you’re traveling to California!
Michigan: Arcadia Dunes
The Arcadia Dunes are part of the Old Baldy Trail, a long stretch of land that looks over Lake Michigan. Michigan is known for its lakes, but it’s also got plenty of other admirable nature landscapes, including the Arcadia Dunes. Whether you want to take a long hike or have a nice picnic, the Dunes are the place to be in Michigan.
Rhode Island: Prudence Island
Prudence Island is a tiny island right off of Narragansett Bay, with about 300 residents living there. It’s a beautiful spot to visit if you’re looking for a quaint spot in nature to have a picnic or enjoy a day at the beach. Even more, there are plenty of walking trails along the island for those who enjoy beachside exercise. To get there, take the Prudence Island ferry near Bristol.
Alabama: Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House
Most people have heard of Frank Lloyd Wright, but few are lucky enough to actually visit his architectural masterpieces. The Rosenbaum House, which is now a museum, is just one of those masterpieces. Located in Florence, Alabama, the Rosenbaum House dates back to 1940, when it first opened. Tourists can visit the house and walk through it too admire its mid-century modern furniture, low ceilings, and overall wood-centric design.
Hawaii: Kahana Bay
Planning a trip to Hawaii? You might want to include Kahana Bay in your itinerary. The Kahana Bay is considered a beach park, and it’s incredibly remote, making it perfect for anyone who needs a private, quiet getaway. It’s another don’t-miss you might not have thought of right away.
Wisconsin: Apostle Islands
Believe it or not, the Apostle Islands are just one group of 22 islands off Lake Superior. They welcome kayaks, boats, canoes, and hiking. If you’re not into independent travel, you can alternatively book a tour that covers about 55 miles of the islands.
Nevada: Valley of Fire State Park
The Valley of Fire State Park is arguably one of the most breathtaking parks in Nevada. The fiery red rocks formed over 150 millions ago, due to shifting sandstone. It costs just $10 per car to visit the park, so it’s definitely worth the trip.
Texas: Garner State Park in Texas Hill Country
Texas isn’t just barbeques and cowboys; there’s more to the state than meets the eye, and Garner State Park is a perfect example. The park sits in the Texas Hill Country, and it’s ideal for hiking, camping, and wading in the water. There are numerous campsite and lodges in the park, so fear not if you’d like to plan an outdoor getaway!
Iowa: Dunnings Springs
Another nature-centered getaway, Dunning’s Spring Park is one of the most underrated places in Iowa. Away from city life, Dunning’s Spring Park has a 200-foot waterfall that you can’t miss. Plus, it’s a great place to spend a day walking, picnicking, and getting fresh air.
Ohio: Hocking Hills
Small waterfalls, hiking trails, and caves are just some of the beauty that is part of Hocking Hills State Park, which is located in Logan. In 2017, over four million people visited the park, so it’s no mystery to travelers, but we thought it was important to include on the list.
Vermont: Lake Willoughby
If you’re looking to travel someplace with great views, Lake Willoughby is the spot. Surrounded by the Willoughby Forest, this lake is located in Westmore and includes multiple public beaches for people to visit. Notably, if you visit during the winter months, you might notice ice climbers climbing the frozen walls that surround the lake. Lake Willoughby is also a great spot for fishing.
Mississippi: Blues Crossroads
Sure, travel can be filled with nature spots, fine dining, and museums, but what about places rooted in old legends? The Blues Crossroads is perhaps Mississippi’s most notable landmark for the old story that musician Robert Johnson figuratively “sold his soul” to acquire musical talent. The landmark, which can’t be missed with its blue guitars towering over the city, is also sometimes referred to as the Devil’s Crossroads. So, if you like blues music, be sure to drive through Clarksdale!
Idaho: Upper Mesa Falls
Most people think of potatoes when they think of Idaho, but there is plenty more to appreciate about this state. The Upper Mesa Falls is a 114-foot high waterfall located in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Named after the rock the water flows off of, the Upper Mesa Falls is a beautiful escape for nature lovers and hikers alike. There is a $5 charge for visitors and/or parking.
Nebraska: The Old Market
The Old Market, located in downtown Omaha, is a must-see for non-locals. There are numerous restaurants, art galleries, farmers markets, and shops on the streets of this neighborhood. The Old Market neighborhood is also home to plenty of historic buildings, including the McClure-Smith building (an old bakery) and the Morse-Coe Shoe Company building. Filled with both history and modern-day infrastructure, The Old Market is someplace not to miss.
Pennsylvania: Presque Isle
The expansive, seaside peninsula otherwise known as Presque Isle State Park houses a lighthouse that looks out onto Lake Erie. A beautiful sight for anyone who loves the ocean, Presque Isle is the place to be in Pennsylvania. It’s best to visit the peninsula during the summer, as it’s most known for its outdoor activities, like swimming and boating.
Wyoming: Leigh Lake, Grand Teton National Park
Named after a famous mountain guide, Richard Leigh, Leigh Lake surrounds the southeast side of Mount Moran. While there, you can visit the lake, hike the trails, and admire the mountain ranges. This glacial lake is something you can only truly appreciate in person, which is why it’s on our list of must-sees.
New Mexico: Tent Rocks National Monument
The tent rocks are shaped the way they are for a reason, and they’re definitely worth seeing during a trip to New Mexico. Over six million years ago, when volcanoes erupted, the surrounding ashes formed into what are now called the tent rocks. Today, visitors can admire the rock structures along the numerous hiking trails.
South Carolina: Spartanburg
City dwellers, Spartanburg’s for you. Sometimes dubbed the “Hub City” because of hub-shaped, local railroads, Spartanburg favors art galleries, history museums, and funky food joints for both locals and tourists. It’s only about 50 miles from Asheville, another popular South Carolina destination, so all the more reason to include it on your travel bucket list!
Minnesota: Stillwater Lift Bridge
The Stillwater Lift Bridge is a historic site that the Minnesota Department of Transportation calls a “rare surviving example of vertical-life highway bridge construction.” It dates back to pre-World War II, and it attracts thousands of onlookers every day. Located across the St. Croix River, it’s something to look out for if you’re traveling through Minneapolis.
New York: Letchworth State Park
Outside of big-city attractions like the Empire State Building and Times Square, New York has numerous state parks that are worth the trip, including Letchworth State Park. One of the best parts of the park is the waterfalls. Some refer to the park as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” proving it’s a space in nature to prioritize on your next trip to New York.
Missouri: “The Big Tree”
Missouri is no flyover state, despite what some people might think. And, though it might look just like another tree, “The Big Tree” has far more history than you’d think, and it deserves a spot on our underrated travel destinations list. This bur oak’s home is Columbia, a college town just two hours from St. Louis. Locals know the tree for its 90-foot stance and its age, which is believed to date back to the 1600s. Go check it out if you’re driving through Missouri; you won’t regret it.
Colorado: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
The Great Sand Dunes might not be the first place tourists go when they visit Colorado, yet it is still a widely underrated point of interest. Not only are the dunes spectacular to see, but they are perfect for hiking. Plus, there’s a creek at the edge of the dunes, which is perfect for hot days. It’s recommended to spend a could days around the area to get the most out of your visit.
North Carolina: Tweetsie Railroad
Perfect for a family vacation, the Tweetsie Railroad is an amusement park located in Watauga County. The big train, pictured above, is part of the park’s Wild West theme, and it takes riders through the park. If you’ve got children, be sure to stop at the Tweetsie Railroad! They won’t want to leave.
Oregon: Lostine River
For 16 miles, the Lostine River flows, and it’s one of the most under-looked nature spots in the state of Oregon. It’s a site for campers, hikers, and fishers, and it’s best visited in the spring through fall months.
Arkansas: Buffalo River
At a whopping 153 miles long, the Buffalo National River flows through Northern Arkansas. It’s part of the Ozark National Forest, and it makes a great escape for people who enjoy river activities, like kayaking. If you’re up for it, you can spend more than just an afternoon at the Buffalo National River. There are plenty of campsites to welcome campers who want more time to see the trails, high-points, and waterfalls throughout.
Connecticut: Old Saybrook
Old Saybrook is a fairly small town in Connecticut with plenty to see and do. Filled with history, Old Saybrook houses multiple historical homes-turned museums, including the General William Heart House and the Florence Giswold Museum, which is filled with impressionist art to admire. Plus, Old Saybrook is great for walks along the water.
Florida: Dry Tortugas National Park in Key West
Located in the Gulf of Mexico, the Dry Tortugas are a group of islands that welcome tourists year-round. The Dry Tortugas are considered a national park and are known for their incredibly blue, clear water. Spend time taking a long walk along the ocean, or pass time admiring the waves. It’s the perfect getaway for your next vacation in the Florida Keys.
Delaware: Cape Henlopen
Cape Henlopen is located just off the Delaware Bay, and it’s a state park filled with designated campgrounds, beachy trails, and fishing spots. It’s perfect for people who enjoy beach walks or spending time near the ocean.